Biking to work in honor of Earth Day? If you’re a regular bike commuter, ever heard of the Bicycle Commuter Act of 2008? Or even if you’re only a casual biker, you’ll still likely be interested in what’s ahead in the full story on bicycling-related news from Monday night’s “Bike-A-Palooza” at Sustainable West Seattle. For starters, you’ll see more sharrows and bike lanes on West Seattle roads before the year’s out:
Before we get to the road specifics, a taste of how Alki Bike and Board‘s Stu Hennessey kicked off the program, which he had organized, with not only speakers in the lodge, but also a mini-expo of bicycles and experts outside:
He listed more than a few benefits of biking – not just how it helps your health and saves money, but also reduces traffic and the load on roadways.
He acknowledged some bicyclists may seem a little wacky on the road – he described it as “driving under the influence of endorphins.” He suggested bicycle/car coexistence could be improved if everyone caught each other’s eye, smiled, and waved.
And then there are the practical aspects, such as the safety equipment he demonstrated – we caught most of his demo on video:
Gina Coffman from SDOT talked about what’s next for West Seattle under the Bicycle Master Plan, and discussed the upcoming Celebrate Seattle Summer Streets event closing Alki to most vehicle traffic on May 31st. (SWS president Bill Reiswig asked why it wasn’t being called Car-Free Day this year — “too controversial?” — and Coffman said, “Instead of closing the street to cars, we’re opening it up to people, so we’re putting a positive spin on it.”)
As for the master plan, she said 58 miles of bike lanes have been completed, with 35 to go this year – some of that along Fauntleroy Way, when the repaving/rechannelizing project commences around the middle of next month. She also said sharrows are in the works this year for Sylvan Way (through High Point) between Delridge and 35th, and California SW between Fauntleroy and Thistle.
Is there any indication how effective sharrows are? one attendee asked. Coffman said the city is doing a study with the University of North Carolina regarding that very question. “They’re meant to remind motorists to expect bikes, and also to check your placement on the roadway,” she explained, saying that if you are a bicyclist, align with the center of the chevron.
As the city’s rep at the meeting, Coffman was peppered with questions and concerns, including the need for better signage explaining how to cross the lower West Seattle Bridge. (Chas Redmond said the city’s printed bicycle map also gives that area short shrift.) “We’re two years into a 17-year plan,” she pointed out (here’s the new “progress report“), saying more improvements would be on the horizon. Attendees were eager to offer ideas, too; SWS president Reiswig mentioned “bike boxes” on Portland streets, as explained here, and Coffman said Seattle was “looking into it.”
Another presentation was made by a visitor from Wallingford, Cathy Tuttle, on behalf of Spokespeople (and Sustainable Wallingford, which is throwing an Earth Day party 4-6 pm today in the parking lot of the Wallingford QFC).
The mission of Spokespeople: “Empower(ing) reluctant cyclists to get on the road and safely go from urban center to urban center.” The group hosts regular rides and bicycle-safety education, all geared more for the average bicycle rider, and they include fun touches such as “low-impact snacks” (fruit?) from the grocery store, a “passport” for young participants showing they reached several milestones such as learning their helmet check.
Alki Bike and Board’s Hennessey says he hopes to set up Spokespeople rides from the Admiral District starting in June.
Also speaking: Serena Lehman from the Cascade Bicycle Club, which she described as the largest recreational club in the country (it also sponsors training, kids’ safety events, and a lot more).
One big focus of her talk: May isn’t just Bike to Work Month any more, it’s “Bike Month.” There IS a “Bike to Work Day” on May 15. Support “stations” will be set up all over the city, and Lehman said that anyone who wants to set one up — even in your own front yard — can get it listed on the Cascade Club’s website. Last year, she said, 23,000 participated in Bike Month, but this year they are going for 30,000.
Beyond “Bike to Work” day or month, there’s Bike Smart Seattle, which is branching into West Seattle as of this year, with rides and classes on tap this summer – you’ll see a postcard in the mail next month with full details of the program.
Sustainable West Seattle usually meets on the third Monday of the month, 7 pm, Camp Long Lodge. The second annual Sustainable West Seattle Festival is coming up on Sunday, May 3, 10 am-3 pm in The Junction — stand by for a sneak peek at program highlights later today!